Quality club: Bill and Robyn Kuys are proud Emerald is the first VCFL club to be given gold accreditation. Picture: Greg Scullin (The Weekly Times)

Emerald now a thriving club

By Roslyn Lanigan
The Weekly Times

HUSBAND-and-wife team Bill and Robyn Kuys describe Emerald Football Club as a "second family". 

It's not a big surprise. 

As president and secretary of the Bombers, the Kuys have dedicated countless hours to rebuilding the club since Bill took on the presidency nine years ago.

In the early years of his tenure, the club - in division two of the Yarra Valley Mountain District league - was on its knees.

Five seasons ago, in 2006, Emerald had just 19 players.

"That was the whole club," Bill said. "We'd not long had our centenary and we were pretty much gone."

Fast-forward to 2010 and Emerald has now reached gold level in the AFL Quality Club Program.

The program recognises and rewards grassroots football clubs for achieving high standards in administration.

"What it really means is that the club has got a business plan, it's got all its financials in order, it's got all the policies and procedures in place," Bill said.

Gold level clubs need to reach at least level two in the Australian Drug Foundation's Good Sports program - Emerald is level three - and run programs outside of football to benefit players and the community.

Bill said the Bombers frequently held sessions about drugs, alcohol and decision-making for its players.

The club also helps young players obtain apprenticeships with other club members.

"Because we're a senior football club, we've got a large number of people who are in businesses, and a lot of those are tradies," Bill said.

"If a young person decides uni's not for them, we can usually tap into one of those tradies and get the young bloke an apprenticeship.

"That's one reason we're getting a lot of players back to the club - they can see we're trying to do something for them.

"It's about building the person more than just building a footballer."

Far from the dark days when Emerald could barely scrape together enough players for one team, the club now boasts a full complement of footballers and netballers.

"We've got seniors, reserves, under-18s, veterans and three grades of netball, so in total we've got in the vicinity of 150 sports people at the club now," Bill said.

"It's a big, big change."

In an effort to make the club more family-friendly, the Bombers installed a playground and a big screen in the clubrooms to show kids' cartoons on rainy days.

"Gone are the days when you just went down the club to sink a few," Bill said.

"Our bar sales are very much down on what they used to be, but we now get revenue elsewhere from other activities.

"We've got a totally new culture at the club now."

Robyn, who became club secretary eight years ago, said the Bombers' committee had worked hard to reach gold level in the program after obtaining its bronze and silver accreditation in 2007.

"It was sheer determination to get it. There's a lot of work involved," Robyn said.

"But we've got to keep working.

"The accreditation is for three years and then it's reviewed."

Bill said the Bombers weren't built on big-ticket players, instead relying on local talent.

About 85 per cent of the club's players are from the Emerald area, with the addition of a handful of long-time Emerald footballers from Preston, Mornington and Blackburn.

"As a club, we do not pay big bucks for players - they're there to play for the red and black," Bill said.

"But we do lose players - we've lost five gun players over the past two years - to a club up the road and they're paying big bucks.

"But those players are saying it's not as fun as it was at Emerald and they're thinking about coming back.

"I think that shows what sort of club we have."

Emerald were presented with its gold accreditation certificate by AFL Victoria club development manager Darryl Collings at its home game against Alexandra on July 17, 2010.

Please note: In 2006, Seaford Junior Football Club were the first club in Australia to achieve Gold level accreditation in the Quality Club Program.

This article was written by Roslyn Lanigan for The Weekly Times. 

View other Country Football news from The Weekly Times - http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/sport/country-footy.html

AFL Quality Club Program

Learn more about the AFL Quality Club Program

Complete the bronze level online assessment in the AFL Quality Club Program


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